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Voltage Converters, Regulators and Transformers, Oh My!

It's getting more common for "foreign" television sets to end up in homes in the United States, thanks to the emergence of the multisystem TV and region free DVD players, along with the prevalence of Internet shopping. Multisystem TV sets and region free DVD players eliminate the biggest barriers to buying televisions and other electronics from overseas, where you'll often find more advanced models and features. With the differences in video display format dealt with, the only remaining barrier for many people is the difference in electrical standards between North America and most of the rest of the world.

In a nutshell, the United States electrical standards call for household electricity to be delivered from the outlet at 110v. European countries, Australia and many Asian countries' standards call for electricity to be delivered at 220v to 240v. Appliances and electronics designed and built to sell in Europe and those countries require 220v to 240v to operate properly. If you attempt to turn them on when they're plugged into a 110v outlet, they may operate oddly, not turn on at all or even suffer some damage. And while there are 220v outlets available in the U.S., they're designed specifically to handle the higher loads of power required for major appliances, such as electric dryers and industrial equipment. They're not suitable for use with electrical equipment designed to run on standard household current - just at a higher voltage.

But that doesn't mean that you're doomed to give up on the sweet deal on a multisystem TV or region free DVD player you found online.

Voltage Converters to the Rescue

The solution is one known to globetrotters the world over - voltage converters or voltage transformers. While they have differences, both voltage converters and voltage transformers have the same purpose: they change the current coming from the wall into electrical current that the electronic item it can use. In the United States, you're most likely to need a step up voltage converter, which spins the 110v current from the outlet into the 220v current needed to run your multisystem TV.

Considerations for Voltage Converters with a Multisystem TV

In addition to the voltage rating on the converter or transformer, you need to be aware of the wattage needed for the items you'll be plugging in to it. Voltage transformers and converters are rated for the amount of wattage they can handle and supply to electrical items. You need to be sure that the converter you buy is powerful enough to run your television and any other electronics you plan to plug into it.

To calculate how much wattage you need, check the specifications on your television and other items. You should find them listed on the label attached to the back or bottom of the item. Look for a number followed by a W - for example, 1500W or 1500w. In that case, you know that your television requires 1500 watts to operate properly.

In some cases, you won't find the wattage listed. Instead, you'll see a number followed by an A, which stands for Amps. To determine the wattage your item needs to operate, multiply the amperage by the voltage on the label. Thus, if the label reads 110v 15A, you'd multiply 110 by 15 and learn that your television requires at least 1,650 watts to operate properly.

Choose voltage converters that supply more wattage than your items need. For a television, choose a voltage converter that supplies at least 1.5 times the amount of wattage needed. If your television needs 1,500 watts to operate right, for example, you should choose a voltage converter that will supply at least 2,250 watts of power.

If you intend to run more than one item through the converter or transformer, add up all the wattage needed by each item to come up with the lowest amount of wattage you'll need to supply your items.

Before you plug in any item you've bought from an overseas dealer, be sure to check the voltage and wattage specifications so you know if you'll need a voltage converter to use it in the U.S. You'll often find voltage regulators, voltage transformers and voltage converters on sale at the same sites where you bought your multisystem TV or region free DVD player.

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